The History of Sex Toys: A Look At The History And Innovations of Aided Masturbation

Oct 14, 2020

Sex toys are increasingly becoming a part of everyday life for people, even if their use is largely discussed behind closed doors. In TENGA’s 2020 Global Survey overall, half of US Adults between 18-54 reported having previously used a sex toy. However, of the 50% of respondents who have never used a sex toy, the majority claim they have “never considered using sex toys”. But did you know that people have been using sex toys for hundreds, if not thousands of years? Let’s take a look at some of the first examples, as well as how they have evolved to the present day. 

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What Was The First Ever Sex Toy?

One of the earliest examples verified to be a sex toy was found in a (perhaps aptly) dark, wet cave in Germany. This decidedly phallic-looking stone object that had been polished to perfection was dated to around 28,000-year-old. Not old enough? Well, there was also a 36,000-year-old carved bison horn discovered in France that archaeologists suggest served a sexual purpose. 

It wasn’t just dildos that have been found historically, however. This beautiful jade and bronze butt plug from around 206 BCE to 220 CE was discovered in the tombs of wealthy aristocrats in China. Apparently, these were used less for sexual gratification and more “to seal the body and keep in vital essences that can leak out during life and death" although who can say with a shape like that. 

Something that was definitely used for self-pleasure was the bread dildo, brought to us by the Ancient Greeks thanks to their culture of being far more open to sexuality and sexual exploration. Ancient Greeks were free to identify as whatever they pleased, be it heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and every variant in between. It seems they were also open to reusable eco-friendly concepts too, as these bread dildos were made specifically as a bio-degradable option. 

Sex Toys Entering The Market

It wasn’t until around the 1880s that sex toys would start entering a more mainstream market. Even then they were often hidden under the guise of performing an entirely different function, much like Dr Macaura’s gout-and-rheumatism-curing Pulsocon. There is also the widely known story that the Victorians used vibrators as a cure for the rather outdated medical condition of “hysteria”. More recently, however, new research suggests that this wasn’t the case at all. 

Another selection of these kinds of products can be found in the Andis Vibrator and the Oster Stim-U-Lax for Barbers from the 1940s as well as the more famous Hitachi Magic Wand from the 1970s. It’s important to note that all of these products were created with a different intent in mind to simple self-pleasure, and yet have become more well known for this use.

It wasn’t until the Rabbit Vibrator in 1984 that toys clearly made for pleasure took the stage. Of course, we should also note that although male sex toys had been around for some time in one form or another, they largely resembled body parts. It was TENGA who arguably brought them to the mainstream with more widely acceptable designs, such as the Original Vacuum CUP series and many more innovations in pleasure since. 

Sex Toys For Everyone

Sex toys have been constantly evolving since the 1980s, with more and more innovative products being created each year. Something of note is that these masturbation aids are still generally marketed towards specific genders. That is until recently with the release of the Enby, a toy designed to be used by any and all genders. This has led to a sharp increase in not only new sex-tech start-ups exploring genderless toys, but even more established brands designing future products that are marketed as being for anyone.

What Is The Future For Sex Toys?

Genderless sex toys are just one of the more ‘futuristic’ avenues that sex toys are taking going into the future. What other potential futuristic self-pleasure methods could we look forward to though? Virtual reality sex is an obvious bet, with VR videos already available on sites such as Pornhub, but we’re talking something more sophisticated. We experienced this first hand when an April Fools story of TENGA working on a VR suit went viral online with overwhelmingly positive comments and a strong demand for it to be a reality!

Haptic Technology is also being researched in the US are already working on teledildonics or cyberdildonics, toys that can be manipulated so that people can experience ‘sex’ over large distances. Sex robots are also another potential route. Although sex robots in one form or another have been around since the 16th century, it’s only with modern-day technology perhaps that we will see the concept become more of a reality. Another route that is already being seen today, is the connectivity of sex toys to the internet, to provide stimulation to yourself or partners via apps and a simple WiFi connection. 

Masturbation and self-pleasure are gradually becoming more accepted and accessible in the modern world, and so it only follows that they will be innovated to reflect that. The future of sex-tech is looking to be interesting, after all, we’ve come a long way from polished stone rods!